Throughout my “return to film photography” odessey, a properly functioning Olympus OM-1 has eluded me. I have purchased a couple off of eBay over the years with any number of issues—stuck shutter speed dials, grindy film advance levers and de-silvered prisms. And all of my previous OM-1 bodies still used the 1.35 volt and unavailable mercury batteries.
It would not be a complete journey for me if I didn’t try this legendary camera with everything functioning as Yoshihisa Maitani intended when he debuted the OM-1 in 1972. So I reached out to one of my favorite camera repair guys, John Titterington who often has refurbished OM-1 and OM-2 bodies for sale on his eBay page and asked him to keep his eyes open for a nice OM-1n for me. The OM-1n was released a few years after the original OM-1 and has a few refinements, including a redesigned film advance lever.
Within a week of my request, John emailed that he had received an Excellent++ body and if I wanted it, he would do a complete CLA and convert it for available 1.5 volt photo cells.
I am always amazed at how wonderful an old film camera can feel after a proper cleaning, lubrication and adjustment. I often read film camera reviews online where the photographer dismisses a camera because something was just not functioning as designed. I too had been guilty of that with the OM-1n, judging this camera only on the bad examples I’ve owned. The camera I received from John arrived clean and shiny with a bright and beautiful viewfinder, silky smooth film advance, calibrated shutter speeds and responsive light meter. And it uses 1.5 volt batteries!
While I was waiting for my OM-1n to arrive, I went looking for a period correct chrome-nosed 50mm f/1.4 Zuiko lens to round out the shooting experience. I found one from a seller in Japan.
Camera and lens in hand, I loaded up some Portra 400 film and headed out for a day of fun.
I stopped by Darioush Vineyards to photograph the Water Lilies.
And once back home, my roses.
I am discovering that the more I shoot these old film cameras, the more I appreciate simple, minimalist, mechanical ones. The OM-1n is one of the purest of all the mechanical SLRs. The meter is very accurate and it’s quite easy to frame, meter, adjust and shoot. These little Olympus cameras are so well built, almost jewel-like or similar to a fine watch. They feel so good in the hand and you can carry one around all day, like I did on this wonderful Northern California day, and hardly notice it.
I am glad I didn't judge the OM-1n on my earlier experiences with unserviced examples. This camera is an absolute joy!
To make my OM-1n even more of a pleasure to use, I picked up a nice leather half case.